Whalers band sail past marketing, focus on music


The Associated Press

Priding themselves in their uncompromising casualness and impulsivity, Austin band Whalers are trying to make it big in the music scene for their raison d’ê

Hannah Smothers

There is a line that separates cool impartiality from blatant unprofessionalism, and local alternative-rock band Whalers is attempting to build their career by flirting with that line.

Made up of five members ranging from ages 27 to 31, Whalers is the quintessential picture of how a small band comprised of five men might look. When they aren’t playing music, they are probably discussing the acting career of Diane Keaton, drinking Guinness at their favorite dive bar or criticizing drummer Milos Bertram for his love of ‘90s rock music.

If there is anything that can be said about Whalers, it is that there is no predicting what they will do or say next. Their animated and impulsive atmosphere could be one of the key factors to the band’s live performance energy.

“In addition to being a fun live band, one of the things I find great about them is their ability to promote,” said Kristyn Ciani, talent buyer for C3 Presents.

However, according to Gus Smalley, lead singer and University of Texas alumnus, Whalers has yet to really promote an album.

“Every time we release something, we’re just like, ‘Hey guys, new album,’ and when we say ‘Hey guys,’ we mean no one,” said Smalley of their laid-back approach to the business side of the music industry.

Whalers chooses to let the steady beats and punchy tones of their alternative, surf-rock music speak for itself. For this group of men, the mundane matters of music business, image and marketing are not top priority.

“We’re 99, if not 100, percent committed to making the best music we can and don’t spend a lot of time thinking about image or marketing,” Smalley said. “We’re definitely not cool-looking. None of us are trying to look like we’re in a band, except maybe me. And if I didn’t, we’d just look like the biggest bunch of squares.”

This simplistic, almost humorous approach to the blood-sucking monster that is the modern-day music industry has worked for the band thus far. Whalers has played shows around Austin and in various venues across Texas. But the group has some goals for the future that involve more national exposure and could require a bit of straightening up.

“We want to write the next hit song for the next hit sitcom on CBS,” said guitarist Kyle Rother.

“Yeah, like something somewhere between ‘Charles in Charge’ and ‘Growing Pains,’” the vocal and pragmatic Bertram added.

Bertram’s naturally outspoken and sardonic nature almost perfectly fits the mold of the stereotypical rock-band drummer. When he’s not banging out driving rhythms from behind his drum kit, his booming voice is filling the void.

“I beat on things. I beat on shit,” said Bertram in his trademark boisterous tone. “I live on one philosophy: I make it go boom-boom.”

The entire band follows suit when it comes to the playful, self-described goofy atmosphere surrounding the table where they sit and share a plate of fried pickles.

“We all generally have the same type of humor, which leads to some pretty crazy antics,” said Amir Mozafari, bassist and UT alumnus.

Whalers isn’t in the habit of taking themselves too seriously. In fact, they do quite the opposite.

“Why not make it so over-the-top that it’s ridiculous?” Bertram said. “We don’t take ourselves so seriously to the point where nothing’s funny.”

This blase attitude radiates throughout the band’s two previously released EPs. With track titles like “Cheat on Each Other” and “I Slept With Her, Too,” it is clear Whalers is not trying to hide or overcomplicate anything. Their straightforward approach to songwriting is refreshing, but it may lack the depth that keeps people listening.

It could be that the banal nature of their songwriting is purposeful. While some bands and musicians have lofty, grandiose and somewhat pretentious dreams of inspiring generations with their deeply misunderstood and angst-filled tunes, Whalers has one over-reigning reason for choosing to make music.

“College girls,” Smalley said. “That’s our answer to everything: college girls.”

Whalers will be playing a free set following the Beach House concert at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Thursday.